‘Unplugged Mysteries’

Nick Heer, writing at Pixel Envy, regarding the just-announced $850 Unplugged Phone — an ostensibly “government-grade” private Android phone from Trump-pardoned war criminal Erik Prince:

Most of all, though, the phone resembles the Liberty Ghost Phone, announced in May in a since-deleted tweet — and the relationship does not appear to stop there. Liberty is promoting the Unplugged suite on its own website, and both phones run the Android fork LibertOS which sports “government-grade” security, whatever that means. The specs of the Ghost Phone are nearly identical to those of the Unplugged; the sole difference I can see is the resolution of the main rear camera. Indeed, if you try to pre-order the Liberty Ghost Phone, a notice appears on the shopping cart page advising you to read the full pre-order terms on Unplugged’s website. It is almost enough to make you think these are the same company.

But there is one more thing: Liberty explicitly claims its “phones are never made in China”, and all of the similar phones I can find are made by Chinese firms. To be clear, I cannot find the same claim on Unplugged’s website or marketing materials. But it is odd, right? I just cannot help but wonder what the chances are that two companies make nearly identical phones that seem to be based on devices from Chinese companies, but one of them says theirs is not made in China. I sent a list of questions to Unplugged, but my email went unanswered; I will update this article if I hear back.

This whole piece by Heer is glorious, including the footwork he put into contacting the subjects involved, including Glenn Greenwald, who was seemingly pulled into this weird story without his knowledge or permission.

The thing I’m reminded of is the “Freedom Phone” — a $500 phone that was announced last year by cryptocurrency genius Erik Finman and promoted to MAGA wingnuts as being super-duper secure, free from Apple and Google’s nefarious control, and most definitely not made in China. It turned out to be a rebranded piece of shit $120 Chinese phone — shocker.

The snake oil practically sells itself. Wingnuts have been convinced that both Apple and Google are on the wrong side of the woke-commie-libtard / heroic-patriot tribal divide. But, just like people who are sane, wingnuts’ phones are deeply integrated into their lives. They’re thus stuck in a catch-22 — they don’t trust Apple or Google and definitely don’t want either company to profit from them, but seemingly every phone they might want to buy is either an iPhone or an Android phone dependent on Google services. So you just pretend to have what they want and some of them will buy it because they’re idiots.

It’s easier to convince a nutter that Earth is a flat disk — which, of course, is not just false but preposterously nonsensical — than that the planet is, say, cylindrical — which is also false, but not nearly as preposterously so. Likewise with convincing a derpy MAGA loon that some upstart company founded by an established member of the wingnut tribe has made a feature-competitive extra-secure modern phone — hardware, software, and services — without any involvement from any company you’ve ever heard of or any Chinese-made components. The unlikelihood of that makes it more believable to the wingnut mind.

Wednesday, 27 July 2022